In a moment of great pride for Middle Eastern and North African film industries, Kaouther Ben Hania has achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first Arab woman to secure two Oscar nominations. This historic announcement was made on Tuesday when the Academy Awards unveiled the comprehensive list of contenders for the 2024 ceremony scheduled on March 11, covering films, actors, and directors.
Ben Hania's noteworthy nomination is in the Best Documentary Feature Film category for "Four Daughters" or "Les Filles d’Olfa," featuring Tunisian actor Hend Sabri. This film, supported by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation, garnered widespread acclaim after its world premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or and received a standing ovation.
An international collaboration involving Saudi Arabia, France, Tunisia, and Germany, "Four Daughters" is a compelling drama recounting the true story of Olfa Hamrouni. Olfa, a heartbroken Tunisian mother, embarks on a quest for answers after her two elder daughters, aged 15 and 16, disappear in 2015, having been radicalized by extremists and joining ISIS.
In a prior interview, Ben Hania emphasized the complexity of the narrative, describing it as a movie about motherhood, the transmission of trauma across generations, and Tunisia itself. She began working on "Four Daughters" in 2016, inspired by a news story in Tunisia, initially considering a documentary format. However, after encountering Olfa and her daughters, she opted for an observer's perspective, dedicating several years to perfect the structure of the film.
This isn't Ben Hania's first recognition by the Academy Awards; in 2021, her film "The Man Who Sold His Skin" received a nomination for Best International Feature Film. Additionally, her feature "Beauty and the Dogs" represented Tunisia in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2017. Other trailblazing female Arab filmmakers who have received Oscar nominations in recent years include Farah Al Nabulsi for "The Present" and Nadine Labaki for "Capernaum."
Ben Hania competes with 'To Kill A Tiger,' directed by Nisha Pahuja, featuring executive producers Mindy Kaling and Dev Patel. The documentary depicts a father-daughter duo's determined quest for justice in a society with limited support for sexual assault victims and critically low conviction rates.
Hailing from Tunisia, Ben Hania is a renowned filmmaker recognized for her influential role in the film industry. Her works frequently explore themes of gender inequality, women's rights, and the challenges confronted by refugees. Through her films, she stimulates discussions on pressing and somber social issues.